Cetis OER Gathering

This week i attened the Cetis OER gathering. When i arrived in Glasgow I was not really sure what to expect. It didnt seem as though and clear goals for the event had been outlined. As it turned out the event was quite free form. We began by everyone introducing each other and stating their interests. This was then broken down into “birds of a feather” session to discuss peoples shared intersts in more detail. There were about 25 people in attendence and there were broadly of a technical nature. In the fray of the initial division of interests  Pat Lockley (Nottingham) and I grabbed Jenny Gray (Open University). The subject of our discussion was RSS feeds for teaching resources. Our party was about 15 strong in total with a slice of the other attendees pitching in their views or just listening in on the debate.

We used the oppertunity to discuss the various uses of RSS for publishing Open Educational Resources. I have had some problems of this nature in the past when depositing the humbox.ac.uk resources in JorumOpen. Jenny has some strong views on the matter as the creator of OpenLearn and outlined a convention for publishing OERs on in RSS which involved reinforcing the native (loosely defined) RSS tags with their counter part Dublin Core tags. This has worked well for OpenLearn in the past an I will be updating all the oneshare repositories with a feed that confirms to her convention. This keeps us compatible with Jorum and Xpert and will make out resourses more accessible.

The discussion then moved on to whether RSS was a suitable format for large scale injest of OERs. Broadly speaking while we concluded that RSS was suitable for lightweight and small scale transfers we were deffinately using the standard outside of its comfort zone. For the kind of lightweight learning resources we have in EdShare the RSS tags map fairly logically. Other things it would be nice to be able to say were “what resource was this resource based on” and “what resources are based on this”. Also it would be nice to be able to treat a person as a URI rather than a plain text string. The way we think about users in EdShare they are just as important if not more so than the resources they produce. A user is more than just a name. Just as a teacher is more than just teaching resources. Anyway to cut a long story short We decided a linked data format would be a much better way to tranfer data of this nature.

Other topics which were touched on if not fully explored were:
How are people currently finding learning resourses? – we have /some/ data about that
What a people actually do with what they find? – we have very little information on that an lot of hyperbally
How do we monitor the reuse of material? – I dont think we necessarily have to but it certainly makes a stronger case to having open teaching resources if you can show this benefit
should we be embeding the correct metadata in pdfs docx and other open document formats so that the document can be less easily seperated from its metadata?
Catagorisation improves reusablity? – completely disagree with this and gave the people who suggested it a bit of ear bashing. Not pidgeon holing resources into “subject” areas encourages better cross disciplinary reuse.

All in all the day was productive but it was a long days travel and im not sure we really succeeded in doing anything that wouldnt have been better done over skype or instant messenger. However i have now met Pat Lockley in person and a bunch of other good people who im sure will be valuable allys in future work.

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